Rawls’ “Just Society”
Insofar as you benefit from living in a ‘just society’, there is an accompanying “duty of
You owe an obligation to that society (as a whole).
The most direct form that obligation takes (but not the only one) is a duty to comply
with the law
Rawl’s Three Principles of Justice/Equality
An ideally liberal society would have principles of:
1) Liberties (civil liberties: freedoms of conscience, association, expression, equal
treatment under the law, etc.)
Not just formal liberties
Aspirations of a liberal society
2) Opportunities, e.g. rights to education, to housing, non-discrimination etc. (That
is, positive freedoms.)
The way we negociate these – diff b/w us & Canada
3) Wealth – material goods, economic and distributive justice. (The so-called
“difference principle”: equal distribution of social, economic resources unless the
inequalities are to the benefit of the least advantaged)
Equality of access to wealth except where redistribution would be a an
Basic structure of institutions – courts, markets
Discourses can be prioritized
Procedural vs distributional
These principles of justice apply to the "basic structure" of fundamental social
institutions: not only the courts, but educational ones, markets, the constitution, etc.
The first set (Liberties and Opportunities) are principles of
Procedural Justice and the last (Wealth) is a principle of Distributive Justice.
A just society would be organized accordingly, in this order: Liberties (first),
Opportunities (second) and Wealth (third).
What role does civil disobedience play in such a society? – main question
Speeding – get to where you wanna fast, prefer not getting caught , not doing in order
to get arrested. – more convenient to disobey
Civil Disobedience – want to get arrested, bring about a change in law
What is ‘civil disobedience’?
Every legitimate act of civil disobedience (for Rawls), has four essential qualities.
1) It must be an intentional act of law-breaking, designed to bring about change in
2) Done for political reasons – i.e. it need to appeal to political principles for its
3) The act needs to be public, and
Has to be all 4 – otherwise bad or not civil disobedience
Occupy – became abt breaking the law – when asked to leave
o Sense of what they wanted to communicate was equality in society
o Not law per say, the culture
You cant always break the same law – white ppl cant protest law preventing black
ppl to eat in certain places
1) It must be an intentional act of law-breaking.
This means it is an unlawful act designed to bring about change in law. (I.e. you
deliberately set out to break the law.)
• You can do this either directly or indirectly.
Directly if you break the precise law you wish changed. Or
- Rosa Parks – sat on the bus, go arrested for it
- Salt tax – Gandhi at the sea
- Private abortion clinics – Morgentaler
- Jury nullification – wilfully refuse to find someone guilty, kept happening till one
found him guilty & went to Supreme Court.
o Counterproductive if hes not guilty
o Point is to make a statement – made in the enforcement of the law
Indirectly if you break another law in order to call attention to the injustice of that first
The presumption is that it is law, but an unjust one
Occupy - They wanted to stay, not to break the law
Civil obedience – making your oppressor oppress you, they will feel terrible, change the
law or someone will force them to do it, public scrutiny
2) It must be done for political reasons. It must be a political act.